Top 10 Film Characters who were Sanitized for Screen


Real Life can so often inspire filmmakers but the trouble is they don’t seem to be able to resist the temptation to glamorize it all a bit. Plain girls are played by supermodels, average guys become buffed beyond compare and storylines get twisted ever so slightly to make for better cinema. The most common treatment that real-life characters get is that they’re made nicer – after all, who wants an unsympathetic protagonist? And it’s not just real-life characters that get the character-enhancements – it can be fairytales that have the nasty bits taken out, or legends which get their rough edges smoothed. Find out who’s been through a Hollywood makeover in our Top 10 Film Characters who were Sanitized for Screen.


10. Maria Von Trapp

As played by the flawless Julie Andrews in the 1965 film “Sound of Music”, Maria Von Trapp is charming, feisty and lovable. Everyone is drawn to her and she is warm and affectionate to children, nuns and even a cold-hearted captain. But the real Maria wasn’t quite so cuddly. She was apparently a religious zealot with a quick temper, and her children admit to having been intimidated by her. Her daughter (also Maria) said in an interview that she “had a terrible temper. . . . And from one moment to the next, you didn’t know what hit her. We were not used to this. But we took it like a thunderstorm that would pass, because the next minute she could be very nice.”

Her romance with the Captain also wasn’t as romantic as it’s portrayed in the film. Essentially, she decided to marry him because she loved the children, saying in her autobiography: “I really and truly was not in love. I liked him but didn’t love him.” It’s true that she sang for a living, but she probably didn’t skip through the streets of Salzburg waving her guitar case about in real life. Shame.


9. Hercules

Also known as Heracles, this legendary Greek hero was immortalized by Disney in 1997. As you’d imagine, this version was quite far removed from the nastiness of the original Greek myth. For instance, the real baby Hercules was a result of deception and rape on the part of Chief God Zeus. In the film, Hercules is born to Zeus and his wife Hera, rather than being illegitimately sired by Zeus and born to the mortal Alcmene. Neither is it mentioned that the baby was abandoned by his mother, before being inadvertently rescued by Hera, returned to his mother, nearly killed by Hera…and so on it goes. Guess that would have been a bit much to fit into an opening song.

The nastiness continued once Hercules had grown up. In the film, he enjoys a romance with Megara (known as Meg), but the legend says that he and Meg married before killing their babies in a fit of madness. It just doesn’t have that Disney feel, does it?


8. Calamity Jane

Calamity Jane, of the 1953 film of the same name,  seemed to have something of a split personality. During dance numbers, she would skip about and smile but once the music ended, she was back to being grouchy and surprisingly deep-voiced. The real “Calam” was probably more like the latter version – there didn’t seem to be a lot of skipping and singing in accounts of her life.

She was a tough frontierswoman who was less delicate-looking than Doris Day, and never had the girly makeover that Day had in the film either. Oh, and the film neglects to mention that Jane may have been a prostitute, and certainly spent her dying days living in a brothel. That might have made the whole thing less family-friendly perhaps…


7. Cinderella

The ultimate Disney princess, this is one girl who can’t possibly have a dark side, right? Wrong. The Grimm fairytale of Cinderella was considerably darker than the Disney film, but it was the 1634 Giambattista Basile tale that had Cinderella turning dark. After telling her Governess about the cruelty of her Step-Mother, the Governess tells her to kill the Step-Mother by slamming a wooden chest lid on her neck. And Cinders does it. Of course, the Governess is not to be trusted, but that’s no excuse for First Degree Homicide, is it? Funnily enough, the Disney Hall of Princesses never depicts Cinderella cheerfully slamming a lid down on anyone’s head, and there is almost no blood on her hands during the classic movie.


6. Fagin

Another beneficiary of a musical-makeover, the Fagin in the screen version of “Oliver” is a cheery chap, with always a trick and a wink for his gang of boys. But the Dickens version is somewhat meaner. He lets the children smoke and drink gin (a detail that was omitted in the film) and beats them savagely if they make a mistake (the Artful Dodger is beaten when he loses Oliver). His main concern is his living, and his fear when his boy thieves get arrested is not that they might be hanged, but that they might tell on him. In the book, justice is eventually served and he is executed whereas in the film, he just spends a few minutes “Reviewing the Situation” before concluding that he loves his life of crime. Because in the world of musicals, crime does pay.

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